Lincolnshire sugar beet grower and contractor, Richard Ivatt, has completed the first stage of his fungicide programme this week, with an application of Spyrale across all 130 hectares of his own crop, based at Shillakers Farm, near Spalding.The plan is to follow-up with a second Spyrale application in around five weeks, with the timing adjusted depending on disease pressure. Any crop destined for later lifting, essentially into the New Year, will most likely get a third fungicide treatment as well this season.It’s a programme Richard has proven to work well, and advocates on the further 100 hectares he looks after on contract - along with any crop that makes up a total of around 1100 hectares he lifts over the harvesting season. “The benefits of effective disease control have become even more apparent as we have moved to ‘just-in-time’ lifting for a longer beet campaign,” he says. “With beet in the ground for longer, better green leaf retention has allowed it continue putting on yield right through the autumn and winter.“Last season the highest sugar levels were recorded from beet lifted in February, where crop left for late lifting on the light gravel-based land really benefitted from the mild conditions.” With the longer growing season he high lights that retention of healthy green leaf is also crucial for frost protection and to help harvesting, as well as driving yield. “British Sugar is urging us to micro-top so as not to cut into the crown, but they don’t want any leaf material going into the factory. “That is virtually impossible if you have dead rubbery leaves on the plant that wrap around the scalper knife. We can achieve a much more consistent, cleaner top and improved root quality with a healthy upright green leaf.” Richard says it is abundantly clear to the harvester operator which crops have had a two or three spray fungicide treatment.Furthermore, the green leaf offers valuable frost protection for later lifted beet, he reports. Generally Richard aims to lift the heavier fen land first, followed by low-lying blackland fen that tends to be more susceptible to frost damage.“Where we used the three-spray fungicide programme in 2010, we didn’t experience the severe losses encountered on unprotected beet when early frosts hit in November. We certainly find that green-leaved beet will stand one bout of frost and continue growing through the winter, although a second frost will still tend to stop it.” He believes that the advances in varieties, agronomy, weather conditions and the longer growing season has extended the opportunities to grow beet on lighter land. Even if there is a dry period through the summer, he argues that there is generally still ample time for healthy beet to put on yield and sugar levels later in the season. “We used to struggle to reliably yield 40 to 50 t/ha on some of the lighter land,” he recalls. “Last year the vast majority exceeded the target yield of 70 t/ha, and with good sugar levels.” Richard adds that this season’s first Spyrale fungicide treatment will include a tank-mix of four kilos of bitter salts and two litres of soluble manganese to enhance crop health; with increased rates of salts and manganese on the lighter gravel land. “Even though the crop was late drilled and the seedbeds suffered from no frost mould over the winter, the crop looks exceptionally well. We now just have to keep it clean for the rest of the season to get the full benefit.” Disease riskSyngenta Field Technical Manager, Simon Roberts, high lights reports from the BBRO that rust has started to be identified in East Anglian sugar beet crops, with risks escalating in hot, dry conditions. Furthermore, previously wet weather in recent weeks would have primed conditions for Powdery Mildew, which could be triggered by summer storms or irrigation.“Trials have repeatedly shown the importance of proactive treatments to prevent disease getting established in beet crops,” he advises. “It is essential that growers don’t neglect sugar beet crops during busy cereal harvest periods. With most crops reaching full canopy, it will be essential to make timely applications of Spyrale and Priori Xtra as soon as any disease is seen or conditions pose a high risk.” Simon points out that the broad-spectrum disease control of Spyrale is especially valuable with the trend for variable weather conditions, including periods of prolonged dry weather interspersed with heavy storms, which is highly conducive to all sugar beet diseases. Priori Xtra also offers excellent alternative broad-spectrum disease control, along with additional strobilurin greening effects for plant health and leaf retention.